Are Egg Cartons Recyclable? (And Uses of Old Egg Cartons)


If there is something we can agree on, eggs are easily people’s favorite protein. And this is thanks to the numerous benefits that they bring to our bodies.

However, while eggs bring so many benefits, their cartons are a different issue. There are so many controversies as to their packaging.

You might just be wondering where do they come from. Or better, what do they comprise of. And then subsequently, if you can recycle them or not.

Well, you’re not alone. Like you, hundreds of other people have different questions about recycling, composting, and egg cartons.

As such, we’ve come up with this post. We’ll answer the question, are egg cartons recyclable. Then, we’ll also touch other related questions, so you know all that’s important.

Dive in!

Can You Recycle Egg Cartons?

If we would be honest with you, there’s no one-way answer. So, are egg cartons recyclable? YES and NO.

While this appears confusing, it’s quite straightforward. And, of course, we’ll break it down for you.

So, the thing is egg cartons mostly come produced from various materials. The most popular ones come from cardboard, Styrofoam, and plastic.

Then, in determining whether you can recycle egg cartons, you’ll have to consider their make-up. So, here’s what you need to know.

Just like other types of cardboard, you can recycle egg cartons made from cardboard. This is because they come from paper pulp, which is an easily recyclable material.

On the other hand, you cannot recycle egg cartons from Styrofoam. This is because there is no available and readily accessible recycling market for Styrofoam.

It’s simple. You’ll hardly find any recycling company interested in collecting your Styrofoam made egg cartons for recycling. As such, you will have to look at other options apart from recycling them.

Finally, you can always recycle plastic made egg cartons. This is because you can naturally recycle plastic. And when they get remade as egg cartons, they still retain their plastic component, which you can take to the nearest recycling company.

As you can now see, you can recycle some types of egg cartons – plastic and cardboard. Unfortunately, if you get an egg cartoon made of Styrofoam, you cannot recycle it.

Why Are Egg Cartons Not Recyclable?

So far, you now know that you can recycle some egg cartons. And, unfortunately, you cannot take others to your nearest recycling center.

So, now you’re wondering why this is the case. Well, it’s quite straightforward. Let’s show you.

Carton Make-Up

As we already stated before, your carton type will determine if you can recycle or not. For instance, while you can easily recycle cartons made from cardboard, the case differs from Styrofoam.

So, yes, your carton make-up is the first reason you cannot take your egg carton to a recycling company. It’s simple; no one would accept what they know they cannot recycle.


Your egg carton houses food. Guess what. This makes it very easy for it to come in contact with other food substances.

Well, in such cases, your egg carton might get contaminated. And, then, you will be unable to recycle it. So, contamination is another reason why you’re finding it hard to recycle.

The reason is simple. Those grease and food substances that your carton contact is quite permanent. That is, the recycling process might find it difficult to remove them for your carton make-up. Worse, it can damage other non-contaminated recycling piles.

So, you’ll find your recycling company rejecting your contaminated egg carton. So, you need to ensure your egg cartons are free to form dirt and contamination.

Earlier Recycling

Typically, your egg cartons get made from items that got recycled. As such, their fiber is thinner than usual when they come from cardboard, for instance.

In such cases, it might become difficult to recycle them for further use. It’s more like every other item. If you keep using and reusing, it would eventually wear off.

As such, when your recycling company sees them, they may feel reluctant to collect them. After all, they know they might be unlikely to get value off the recycling process.

Are Styrofoam Egg Cartons Recyclable?

By now, you already have an overview idea that you cannot recycle your Styrofoam egg cartons. However, it’s not enough to have just an idea. You’ll need an in-depth understanding.

You might be wondering why the focus on Styrofoam. Well, this is because you’re more likely to come in contact with Styrofoam made egg carton.

We’re sure you make most of your egg purchases from the store and supermarket. Well, unless you’re getting your eggs from the farmers, most stores and supermarkets have Styrofoam cartons.

So, now you get why this is important. And next, you’re wondering what Styrofoam is.

Styrofoam is a form of polystyrene made from chemical and petroleum mixture. It’s very lightweight, durable, and suitable for making cups and packing materials. They are light and quite strong, so using them to pack eggs is a good idea.

However, while using them is a good idea, you CANNOT recycle them. This is because most recycling companies do not count them as acceptable. So why bother trying to recycle them in the first place?

However, the fact is they contain petroleum materials. And these are materials you can generally recycle.

However, it involves a very long process in which most recycling companies are uninterested in. So, you’ll find them telling you not to drop Styrofoam in their recycle bin.

However, if recycling is a must, then you can just go the extra mile. Typically, certain recycling companies and local governments have drop-off locations for Styrofoam. So, you will just need to find one and place your Styrofoam there.

Still, remember that it’s loads of stress. As such, you might be better off using them for other purposes. Don’t worry; we’ll get to your alternative options later on.

Can You Recycle Paper Egg Cartons?

YES, you can add paper egg cartons directly into your paper recycling! If you plan to recycle your egg cartons just be careful not to contaminate them with any egg residue. Any food residue should not be sent to your recycling facility! You can avoid this by not placing your cracked eggs directly back into the carton when cooking!

Is the Ink in Egg Cartons Harmful For Compost?

You may ask yourself this question before tossing paper egg cartons into your compost. While it is difficult to know, a large majority of egg cartons are made with biodegradable soy-based ink, like what is found in your newspapers. Soy-based inks are environmentally friendly because they are derived from natural materials and will easily be broken down into simple components that become reintegrated into the natural cycle.

Thankfully for consumers, soy-based inks are cheaper to produce and produce brighter and more vibrant colors, so they are almost always the preferential source of ink. Soy-based inks are made from soy oil mixed with natural resins and waxes that create more defined colors. In contrast, petroleum-based inks are harmful to the environment, but they are cost-prohibitive for most consumer products.

What About Plastic Egg Cartons?

While plastic egg cartons cannot be composted, but they can be recycled. As previously mentioned just be sure that your plastic egg carton is not contaminated with any food residue. Unlike paper egg cartons, plastic egg cartons can easily be rinsed and washed before placed into your recycling bin. In many places, particularly remote regions, recycling may not be an option so take this into consideration. While better than styrofoam, plastic is not considered as environmentally friendly as cardboard.

What About Foam Egg Cartons?

Foam or Polystyrene is the least environmentally friendly egg carton material. It is not compostable and not recyclable and must be sent to a landfill. Polystyrene is the least environmentally friendly material because of the dangers it poses to our environment and human health. Polystyrene is technically considered a hard plastic and is a petroleum-based material. The production of polystyrene creates over 50 chemical byproducts that are harmful to the environment and human health.

Styrene, one of the main components, is known to be carcinogenic and irritates the eyes, the respiratory system, and your gastrointestinal system. This can result in headaches, weakness, fatigue, depression, hearing loss, and kidney damage. When not properly disposed of Polystyrene materials leech these toxins into the soil and water. In many places, these materials are burned, volatilizing the toxic chemicals and causing air pollution.

Are Egg Cartons Biodegradable?

Simply put, what you ought to know here is whether or not egg cartons can decay to allow for valuable nutrients into the soil.

Well, once again, it’s a yes and no answer. And this is because this depends on your egg carton make-up.

You’ll remember that we discussed that your egg cartons might either come from cardboard, Styrofoam, and plastic. Well, this also goes a long way in determining whether your egg cartons can be useful as fertilizers.

Here’s what you need to know.

When it comes to cardboard egg cartons, they are biodegradable. Precisely, they can get aerated, dissolved, and ingested into the soil to become nutrients.

Well, this is because cardboards come from wood fibers. And wood fibers will decay naturally. So, if you’re looking for an egg carton material that will decay for your soil benefit. Then, getting cardboard made cartons seems like your best bet.

On the other hand, when it comes to Styrofoam and plastic egg cartons they are not biodegradable. They are unable to undergo any biodegradation process due to their composition. They go straight to the landfill, and they do not add valuable nutrients to the soil in any way.

So, if you’re all about reducing thrash and promoting a green planet, you’ve got your answer. You might want to avoid Styrofoam and plastic egg cartons. And, of course, go for cardboard cartons.

Are Egg Cartons Compostable?

By now, you’re wondering if you can compost egg cartons. Well, since we already discussed which egg carton can decay into soil nutrients, answering this question should not be difficult.

Egg cartons made from paper and cardboard are compostable. They are rich in carbon and provide a great addition to the value nutrients going into the soil. Although they need to be cut into smaller pieces or even soaked inside the water to make it softer, you can compost them.

They are typically made from paper pulp that is shaped and pressed into this egg-friendly shape and is efficient as a protective material. Because the paper pulp is derived from natural materials like wood, these are biodegradable and can be reintegrated back into the earth. You can easily compost paper egg cartons by mixing it with your already existing compost system.

When moistened they can also be easily consumed in a worm based vermicompost system. While you probably won’t be adding an exaggerated quantity of egg cartons into your compost, these do contribute as a carbon source to your compost so be sure to balance it with an adequate source of nitrogen-rich materials.

So, the next time you plan to throw your cardboard cartons away, think of the valuable nutrients they would add to the soil instead.

However, you cannot compost egg cartons from Styrofoam and plastic. Due to their constituents, they cannot break down like cardboard.

As such, they will most likely end up in landfills if you don’t do anything better with them.

What to Do with Old Egg Cartons?

Now, you know that you cannot compost Styrofoam and plastic egg cartons. Worse, there’s nothing for you when it comes to these items being biodegradable.

As such, you’re wondering what your other options are. Well, here are some great alternatives that you can always resort to.

1. Paint Trays

You can put your egg cartons to good use by using it for paint trays. And this is whether you’re a professional painter or just painting as your hobby.

Even more, you can gift an art teacher or an artist. And they wouldn’t have any complaints. Believe it. Egg cartons make perfect paint pallets for art and crafts.

2. Start Seedlings

If you are thinking of starting a garden, the egg cartons would be perfect for starting seedlings. They are ideal for planting seedlings before transferring them elsewhere.

All you’ll need to do is add some soil. Then, you can add your seeds, provide the required support, and have a blast.

3. Give Them Out

You can give the egg carton a second life by gifting a neighbor who has poultry. They can then use them to store feed or eggs over and over again.

However, ensure they are clean before you hand them out. You don’t want to gift a contaminated item.

4. Storage

You can use egg cartons to store small items in your home. It could make a very good item holder for various things such as golf balls, tennis eggs, Christmas ornaments, etc.

You even reuse them for storing eggs.

5. Sound Proofing

If you have access to a large number of egg cartons, or just plan to save them up, this can be a great use. It’s as simple as attaching these to your wall with safety pins!

6. Ice Cube Tray

Plastic and styrofoam egg cartons work as an easy ice cube tray. Just cut in half lengthwise, fill with water and plop in the freezer

7. Organizer

Egg cartons are great for organizing small things like washers, nails, coins, or potentially even your medication!

8. Packing Peanuts

It’s never a bad idea to use your cartons for packaging various items. For instance, you can use them for packaging peanuts.

All you’ll need to do is make a crumble with the foam or cardboard. Then, you can use them to protect your shipment.

You can also use them to protect fragile objects like Christmas ornaments, glassware, or electronics when in storage.

9. Drying your Boots

Ever wonder how to dry your boots after getting soaked in the rain? Stuff your paper egg carton into your boots and wait! The carton will absorb moisture from the inside of your boots and transport it to the part of the carton that is sticking out! This will speed up the evaporation process and help dry your boots in no time!

10. Kindling

If you still can’t find a use for your paper egg cartons then use them to help start a fire! You can tear it up and use it as a quick kindling. Alternatively, if you want something a little more flammable to start a fire in less than ideal conditions you can make a simple fire starter.

Light a candle and hold it upside down over the egg carton. Let the wax drip into the inside of the compartments and fill with no more than 1 cm of wax. Try to cover as much of the surface area as possible! This will create high temperatures and long-lasting kindling that will easily start any fire!


It is effortless for you to overlook things like what kind of egg carton to pick when at the store buying eggs. It sounds inconsequential to most people.

However, the truth is that small actions like choosing an eco-friendly egg carton can go a long way in bettering our environment. After all, the journey of a thousand miles usually begins with a step.

So, the next time you are going shopping for eggs, be sure to pick egg cartons that are recyclable, compostable, or reusable. After all, it doesn’t matter which carton your eggs come in. Your eggs will still make a good meal each time.


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